Auberlen, Salama, Gleason and Hand Take VIR Six-Hour Race DANVILLE, VA. (October 7, 2007) --Bill Auberlen, partnered by Don Salama, Chris Gleason and Joey Hand in the Turner Motorsport No. 96 BMW M3, captured the KONI Challenge Series six-hour...
Auberlen, Salama, Gleason and Hand Take VIR Six-Hour Race
DANVILLE, VA. (October 7, 2007) --Bill Auberlen, partnered by Don Salama, Chris Gleason and Joey Hand in the Turner Motorsport No. 96 BMW M3, captured the KONI Challenge Series six-hour race at VIRginia International Raceway Sunday, ending the season with the team's third victory.
Auberlen co-drove with two teams in Sunday's race, scoring his second consecutive KONI Challenge victory with the team of Turner Motorsport. Auberlen took the lead just twenty minutes from the end of the six-hour race when leader Tom Long had to pull the No. 99 Fresh From Florida/Automatic Racing BMW M3 in for a quick fuel stop. Long held second until the final lap, when Craig Stanton passed him in the No. 38 BGB Porsche 997, but neither car had the muscle to challenge Auberlen's lead of 23.891 seconds at the checkered flag.
"We came here to end the year with a win and take home a championship (for BMW)," said Auberlen. "I can't say enough about Turner Motorsport, they win wherever they go."
The third place finish by Long and his teammate David Russell was their best of the season, after the team led a total of 16 laps out of the 162 total laps run over the 3.27-mile road course.
The race was slowed by only a pair of full-course cautions, both of those for cars in the tire walls at turns nine and eleven. The early dominant team, pole sitter Spencer Pumpelly, with fellow drivers Michael Auriemma and Darren Law led 48 laps, more than any other team, but retired with a quarter of the race left to run when the throttle linkage failed on the No. 49 Porsche.
Championship leaders Jep Thornton and Jeff Segal were joined in the season-ending race by Nick Longhi and veteran driver Joe Varde to help assure them of the point lead at season's end. Longhi was driving when the shift linkage snapped in the No. 09 BMW M3, bringing the car into the pits, pushed by their teammate in the No. 90 BMW. The failure brightened the outlook for Joe Foster and the No. 55 SuperCuts Mustang but just a few laps after Segal returned to the track, the Mustang was forced to pit for brake pads.
"We knew that we needed to come here prepared after the mechanical issues that we faced at Miller," said Thornton, "so we had a garage on hand that had every imaginable part ready. When the shift linkage broke, it only took the team 13 minutes to repair it and get us back on track. We really owe this to the team."
Despite finishing worse than ever this season, the team still earned enough points to assure both team and driver championships. "This is just awesome, the crew did a great job," Segal said. "This really is a championship for the team. It took a lot of hard work but we were able to squeeze it out. We were hoping it wouldn't be this dramatic, but we'll take it any way we can get it."
Consistency paid off for Segal and Thornton in winning the championship, as they finished in the top ten nine times out of twelve races, with four podium placings and seven top fives. That consistency earned the team 287 points for the season, beating out Foster and the No. 55 Hyper Sport team by ten points. Third place in the season standings went to Craig Stanton in driver points, while the No. 38 BGB Porsche took third in team totals, both with 273 points.
The manufacturer championship went to BMW. That marque secured the top trophy with the help of Turner Motorsports' four victories and the consistency shown by Automatic Racing's BMWs. Ford followed, 22 points behind BMW's 382 mark total.
Other weekend activities at VIR included a broad variety of motorcycle stunt shows, drifting competition and a RedLine Track Attack time trials competition. The RedLine competition was won overall by Paul Gerard in his all-wheel-drive AMS Mitsubishi Evo, who led the Unlimited class. In the Unlimited Rear Wheel Drive went to Bill Washburn's DentSport Nissan 240RS. Front Drive Unlimited was won by Kevin Helms in a Hondaworks Civic. The Modified championship went to Scott Busch, driving his GTSpec/Relentless Autosports Nissan 350Z, while the Modified All wheel drive crown went to Chad Koslow, driving the EVODynasty.com DTM. The front drive Modified title was won by Don Hill in a 1992 Honda Civic.
Racing continues at VIR into November, with the Goblins' Go, a Sports Car Club of America regional race on the calendar for October 27-28 and the now traditional 13-hour enduro, the "Charge of the Headlight Brigade" taking the green flag at 9:15 Saturday morning, November 3. The checkered flag will fall on that race at 10:15 Saturday night, with 80 cars expected to compete over VIR's rolling hillls and turns.